Is User Generated Content the new normal?

Kids leading the way

Recently my 4-year-old daughter’s kinder was closed in response to the global pandemic. While we as parents struggled to adapt to the new normal of home school, she was delighted. Especially when we received an email to find her kinder teachers had prepared a treasure trove of video content, where they performed classics as ‘wheels on the bus’ and demonstrated 10 fun things to do with cardboard boxes! Very soon she zeroed in on the type of content that she liked best and watched it on repeat, singing along and doing the actions. 

I was super impressed, not only for the distraction it provided but for how quickly her teachers adapted and started producing digital content. Sure the quality was a bit patchy, and we got a sneak peek inside the teacher’s homes, but it didn’t take long before she wanted to make her own video to share with her classmates and teachers. Alas, the platform technology didn’t allow for that, so we had to make do with a photo attached to an email.

At the primary school level, my 8-year-old son’s school uses a great app that allows teachers and students to share work with parents. Now that his school is also closed, we will be loading on work from home to share with his teacher. But the real action is on the class WhatsApp group. Here, without any direction from the school or external moderation, parents and kids are coming up with word game challenges, recording themselves solving puzzles and thoroughly enjoying themselves whilst engaging with each topic that is raised by a peer. This is truly a social learning experience that has come about organically. 

Can organisations follow the lead?

In previous articles we’ve discussed that a lot of today’s learning design and technology is out of touch with how people choose to seek out knowledge, engage with each other and, ultimately, how they learn.

User-generated content can come in many shapes and forms. Simply put, it is when a user is allowed to contribute their own content while participating in learning. For example, this can be videos of them performing a task, written text with their perspective on a topic, voice recordings, images, comments or any other way that people engage with technology nowadays. The important thing for organisations is that they leverage this content in a way that contributes to overall learning objectives.

So far, the use of user-generated content has been reasonably limited, and much of the content we see is still very static in nature. However, the world is changing rapidly around us. What do organisations need to do to embrace this change and the potential it offers? 

Can we trust our people? What about compliance?

More often than not the argument against opening up the approach to content creation is based on the need for control. Compliance training in particular is important for people’s safety and misinformation could be potentially harmful. Yet an approach that encourages peers to share their perspectives on safety and giving examples of the correct application of policy and procedures is a powerful engagement method. Combined with careful moderation, user generated content can lead to behavioural change and better culture of doing things the right way.

Still there will be those who would say it is too risky to allow their workforce to contribute content.

Radical trust is a term used to describe the trust an organisation puts in its people to use online platforms such as social media. It is the trust they have that the relationships and online communities formed will provide feedback and guidance that benefit the organisation.

This is the foundation for why a lot of today’s marketing is done using social media (Instagram influencers for example). Marketers show radical trust in the consumer to build the brand based on the experience that is most relevant to them. 

Put simply, in order to get the most out of a social learning strategy and embrace user generated content, an organisation needs to put trust in its people and allow them to make valuable contributions. 

Technologies like Learning Experience Platforms allow for this type of social learning, they also provide a way to moderate and be sure content is validated.

This may seem like a big step for some, but the reward for trusting your people will likely result in the biggest benefits to your organisation – an engaged, interested and well-trained workforce. 

The decision may well be taken out of our hands anyway if the kids have anything to do with it!